What did Caty do?

The Caty-did is a green, grasshopper-like insect of the genus cicada. They can often be heard on hot summer nights and are a familiar sound at the Cantigny event. The following poem was written by Philip Freneau (1752-1832).


In a branch of willow hid
Sings the evening Caty-did:
From the lofty locust bough
Feeding on a drop of dew,
In her suit of green array'd
Hear her singing in the shade
Caty-did, Caty-did, Caty-did !

While upon a leaf you tread,
Or repose your little head,
On your sheet of shadows laid,
All the day you nothing said:
Half the night your cheery tongue
Revell'd out its little song,
Nothing else but Caty-did.

From your lodgings on the leaf
Did you utter joy or grief--?
Did you only mean to say,
I have had my summer's day,
And am passing, soon, away
To the grave of Caty-did:--
Poor, unhappy Caty-did !

But you would have utter'd more
Had you known of nature's power--
From the world when you retreat,
And a leaf's your winding sheet,
Long before your spirit fled,
Who can tell but nature said,
Live again, my Caty-did !
Live, and chatter Caty-did.

Tell me, what did Caty do ?
Did she mean to trouble you ?
Why was Caty not forbid
To trouble little Caty-did ?
Wrong, indeed, at you to fling,
Hurting no one while you sing
Caty-did I Caty-did ! Caty-did !

Why continue to complain ?
Caty tells me, she again
Will not give you plague or pain:--
Caty says you may be hid
Caty will not go to bed
While you sing us Caty-did.
Caty-did ! Caty-did ! Caty-did !

But, while singing, you forgot
To tell us what did Caty not:
Caty-did not think of cold,
Flocks retiring to the fold,
Winter, with his wrinkles old,
Winter, that yourself foretold
When you gave us Caty-did.

Stay securely in your nest;
Caty now, will do her best,
All she can, to make you blest;
But, you want no human aid--
Nature, when she form'd you, said,
Independent you are made,
My dear little Caty-did:
Soon yourself must disappear
With the verdure of the year,--
And to go, we know not where,
With your song of Caty-did.


Prose and Poetry of the Revolution, edited by Frederick C. Prescott and John H. Nelson, Thomas Crowell Company, 1925 (pp 230-231).